Post 16 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Based on recent observations contemporary students appear to be more inadequately prepared for life outside the classroom than ever before.  Having been enticed through the education system with a plethora of sweeteners incentivizing their participation in the learning experience there seems to be a lack of a full subscription to the ethics of hard work, conscience self-orientated study, considered critical evaluation and focussed, innate determined vision.  Our children today are effectively bribed to respond in ways which pave pathways to a collective will and not thinking for themselves, working hard for their own ends and basically taking responsibility for their own pathways because that ultimately is the fulfilment that will remain past the last school bell.

With the target focussed system that teachers have to work under, students have more and more become pawns in an adult world of number crunching.  Judged by results (statistical ones that is), schools today are churning out kids that know how to tick boxes but not necessarily have the toolkit to enable them to choose which box should go where.  That is not to say the teaching isn’t excellent in many cases, but more so the raison d’etre behind the it imposed by bodies other than the teachers themselves.

In respect of post 16 educational provision, more and more, it appears that sixth forms are all about producing exam results rather than taking 16 year olds and encouraging them on career trajectories that are significantly based on autonomous, self-motivated focus.  The emotional gap between pre-16 and post-16 education is almost indistinguishable with massive buy-in to reward systems akin to the younger years, threats, restrictive practice and discipline regimes that would be better suited to a menagerie.  The disappearance of “free-time” in pressed work schedules removes the responsibility from the student to study on their own terms.  A reduction in home study hours/restriction in these hours further impinges the students’ capacity to develop intrinsic motivation that is self-regulated.  The fear of failure cripples the chance to learn from experience and the emphasis on achieving good exam results come at the expense of developing the holistic self. Stress, pressure and overwhelming burdens are the reality for the 16-18 year old students of today with little help in managing some of the basic strategies that furnish them for a life-time of health and happiness.

Students are therefore leaving sixth form ill prepared for their next step.  They are pressurised by a system that focuses more on what they can say they (the school) have achieved than the person that is the student has gained in terms of development potential outside the academic remit.  What is more, the “boundaries” put in place to secure these statistics, restrict children at a crucial stage of their development when they are forging their own identities, working out their own values and attempting to buy into standards which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  Some will say that the “system” scaffolds this development but equally it could be proposed that under too tight a control it stifles and simply replicates its own beliefs and standards on our young people leaving them at risk of going off the rails at a later stage when they eventually have to self-express.  Often if this happens they have left home to go out to work or onto higher education experimenting in an unfamiliar environment with the potential to slip up away from the back-up of parental and school support.   In the case of students at university, some drop out or fail their first year because they are not intrinsically equipped to handle the massive transition that they are faced with and are then left armed with a £9000 bill for fees on top of maintenance loans leaving young members of society saddled with debt and nothing to show for it.

What then has to be done to revert the tide that is overwhelming the next generation?

If our young people have any chance of success in this target orientated world, we need to take up the mantle to beat the system.  School is, for the majority, a large part of their life but so too is home.  Inputting balance at home is vital to help prepare kids for the future ahead of them. That is not to go against the vagaries of the educational system but home is also a centre where the constraints of the “system” are absent leaving an environment that can be created to produce and counteract the pressures of school to help prepare our young people for their futures.

Listening to what they have to say and discussing issues as they arise away from the culture of blame and shame is paramount to helping them forge their own identities.  Working with them to achieve a focussed mind set that wants to achieve because of the internal rewards of success not because of some computer generated certificate.  Spending time laughing and simply enjoying the learning process of life so that it is something they want to continue to embrace outside the school gates.  Encouraging healthy and open minded debate where opinions are validated and perspective appreciated.  Indeed validating the person they are; not what a government agency wants them to produce.  Enabling self-expression and helping them build true self awareness so that they own and buy into their true all rounded potential.

These are the things we as parents can do at home.  They don’t take time. They don’t take hard work. They just take an ethic of world centricity uplifting our children without material focus, to truly become who they can in their own right.  There is no designer brand for this way of parenting but there is a realisation that parents are there first and foremost to help foster the best environment for a child.  All it takes is the will to do it for there is no other individual on this planet that will care more for your child than you.  That is the joy of parenting and that, to be honest, is the mantle of truth that of each one of us delivers when we become a parent.

Working together with our young people and helping them on healthy and happy pathways into adulthood is one of the most worthwhile things any parent can do.  Critically working in partnership with the other agencies that have been chosen to support this journey, where openness exists to do so, with the young person as the central cog mastering their destiny has to be the way forward but most importantly valuing the place of home, friends and family in nurturing individually enabling environments can only do good.

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Resilience: Why Do Children Need It?

I felt it was time that this was reblogged as Resilience seems to be the buzz word in education at the moment! It’s nothing new though but so often these things aren’t are they! So why not have a muse, see what you think and see how you can help your children to be more resilient in the tough world that they are being brought up in …..

Reset Parenting

If there’s one thing we all know, that is that life is full of hard knocks!  It can throw curved balls at a great distance; some we see approaching and some we have no idea are on their way until they hit us and push us over!  But our capacity to deal with these knocks, to recover from them and spring back from them is to a greater or lesser extent down to just how resilient we are.  The dictionary definition of resilience is the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity, or 2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy and so developing a resilient tool kit in life is a key skill that can make all the difference and is one that, we as parents, need to be nurturing in our…

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The Love Of Family

Ginz&Tonic

You’ll never earn a child’s respect
Through blackmailed bribery
You’ll never buy their devotion
Demanding that they see
You or indeed spend their time
In worshipping the ground
On which you walk; They can’t be bought
Nor will they e’er be found
Until you start to step up to
The mark; be honest too
And stop dangling a carrot for
Them to then follow you
Nor give them gifts or scare them from
Those whom you maybe hate
For children have autonomy
Their own pathways create
And only by your selfless heart
Will they then turn to you
And see your unconditional love
Be inspired by what you do
For they did not chose to be yours
They don’t elect to be
Tied up in your emotions nor
Your deep set jealousy
But they will love you to the end
They’ll love you; ask for nil
And you – well…

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Give Your Children Just Enough

Ginz&Tonic

Give your children just enough
To go and make some good
But not enough that then they fail
Nor see the tree or wood
Give them a start and help them to
Appreciate this Earth
To own their own pathways ahead
Not just by right of birth

And let them harness steadfastness
Inspired to do much more
To take the little that they have
And rise on footholds sure
With knowledge that they can succeed
Be who they want to be
And open up the way ahead;
Take opportunity

To know that by their own attempts
Their focus and their might
They’ll take the little that you give
And with hard work in sight
They’ll master their autonomy
Be true to who they are
And journey whilst holding on fast
So that they will go far

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Grit, Spit and A Whole Lot Of Duct Tape!

It seems to me that the Madagascar Penguins were onto something when they said this as the plane disintegrated about them but the bigger question is where is our grit, spit and duct tape in life and why on earth is this relevant to parents enhancing the lives of their children?

It all comes down to hard work and that is something that seems in a lot of cases to have gone out of fashion nowadays.  Getting anywhere in life is about determination, focus and stickability.  If we can help our children to see past the hand-me down lifestyles that sometimes seem easy now and realise that life is about hard work, then I do believe we are well on our way to helping them to a successful future.

So why the grit?  Grit, or determination, as I see it is a primary motivator.  It isn’t something that you can give your children but it is something that they can be helped to achieve for themselves.    Determination needs to be intrinsic.  It needs to be something that, as they get older, isn’t achieved by harping after another carrot, but is something that they alone are resolved about.  Whatever “it” is, without that resolve and buy in, no amount of bribery, coercion or threats will make a difference.

But what is the “it”.  The “It” I see as a goal or a focus.  It possibly should come first.  It’s the spit that projects into the future and sticks.  Fowl maybe, but true – definitely.   Without a goal or focus it is hard to be resolved to have that go get it attitude.  With children I don’t believe it matters what that goal/focus is. The fact is, it has to be theirs and they need to own it.  If they want to be prime minister or the best goalie ever then let them dream.  Logic and rational can come later but use their focus to help them pave a way forward.

Finally, duct tape!  That sticky tape that stops stuff shifting is the tape that you want in your children’s lives for a two fold reason.  First it stays firm.  Children need stability.  Even in the most wobbly situation, there needs to be strong threads of stability.  When they have an anchor they will not get lost at sea.  Stability often partners with consistency.  The two kind of go hand in hand but critically a lot of stability and consistency comes out of the values and standards that exist in the home.  If they are firm, sure and honoured then children know where they stand, what the expectations are and can branch out from there, knowing what is ok and importantly what isn’t.

The second thing about duct tape is that it is sticky.  Aligning with the focus and determination comes the motivation but it is important to stick with it.  Encouraging children to be true to themselves, to stick with the paths they have chosen that work and be sure and confident in their good actions encourages self esteem and also enhances all of the above.

So if you’re struggling with your offspring, find it’s always an up-hill battle why not take a leaf out of the Penguins book with some grit, spit and duct tape!  I can’t promise you and easy ride or plain sailing but it will help with the momentum to support children from the here and now into the then and next.

Grit, spit and duct tape – go on! Give it a try!  Metaphorically, of course!

 

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Children and Loyalty

Why is loyalty important for children and is it an outdated maxim or something that we should be embracing in our parenting strategies nowadays?

Loyalty is more than a duty, it is wrapped up in consistency which imparts stability and predicated on reliability; some of the most important elements that underpin happy and successful lives however flexible or busy we are. Loyal friends are worth much more than their weight in gold because they are dependable and can always find the time for their friends, for their family, for their colleagues and the world in general. Whoever, wherever, whenever. And what’s more it’s vital in a world that has a tendency to bash and bruise, that loyalty extends past a benefaction to another but includes loyalty to self.

However, loyalty is often somewhat bypassed nowadays and children do not learn the value of being loyal at a young enough age, nor through their progression towards adulthood rendering them, without this vital attribute in their development.

Loyalty is best learnt by experiencing loyalty.  As a parent demonstrating loyalty to our children can make all the difference.  Being a loyal friend to those we come across or exhibiting loyal traits in other aspects of life are all part of showing our children what it is to be loyal.  Importantly too being loyal to ourselves and encouraging our children to be so too, all adds to a powerful witness of exactly how loyalty can make a difference through life.

Moreover loyalty is something that children not only need to experience but proactively need to be encouraged to practice.  Challenging mindsets that betray loyal traits, encouraging children to think how they would feel if someone responded in a certain way towards them, taking the time out to reason with them and to explain the whys and wherefores of loyalty in given situations all goes to helping children foster a loyal and balanced approach to life.  And then importantly, it is also vital to help children to differentiate where loyalty is appropriate and where it is not.  Bringing them up to be true to themselves will help them understand why it is important to be a loyal friend, a loyal parent, a loyal employee.

Spending time with children is the key to so many different aspects of their development.  Nurturing the good and not rewarding the not so good.  Loyalty is the same.  It isn’t the blind servant and shouldn’t be the slave to an outdated maxim that does just because it is bidden to do but more so a proactive determined response to a life choice that builds up rather than tears down.

The question is are your children going to be equipped to make that choice?

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In The Imaginations of Children

I read this and thought not only how true, but also how wonderful. Let us as parents never be scared to let children dream for their wildest dreams just might become their reality or at least that has been my experience with my children 🙂

Richard M. Ankers - Author

I was once told that the world revolves around the imaginations of children. In a child’s eyes, their inner minds, they see what an adult would reject and heap scorn upon. They imagine the worlds they wish for, rather than that which they inhabit. Dreams of outer space, dinosaurs and the like then transcend to professions, pastimes, as life takes over. The giving structure to what they once only held as fantastical seems to be expected of them. Yes, an adult attempts to dilute the dreams of the child by making them tangible. As such there becomes less and less to dream. The older generations seek to quash the fantasies of the youth as if to negate their own youth. But not all adults.

There are those who refuse to have their fantasies compromised. As those children rise to adulthood, they retreat to the depths of their imagination and expand…

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